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Subject: A Pasted On Theme? I Think Not! - NJAGP Reviews LoW rss

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Jim Reed
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LORDS OF WATERDEEP

BY: JIM REED
www.njagp.com

A pasted on theme, I think not.



"It's a Euro with a theme pasted on."

It seems to be one of those defining definitions to the Wizards of The Coast board game Lords of Waterdeep. I've heard it explained this way over and over.

But isn't every Euro a Euro with a theme pasted on. For that matter, isn't every Ameritrash game a game with a theme pasted on?

This phrase "pasted on theme" has me really bothered recently and even more so now with this game.

According to Board Game geek - "pasted on" (theme): adj. A term given to a game by people who think that the links between the game's theme and mechanism is weak. Or in other words, the designer created the game's mechanism first and abstractly, and applied the theme afterwards.

I guess my biggest problem is that games that seem to get this Term "tagged" to them get it as a negative description.

Throwing a theme onto an awesome mechanic should be a good thing. It should appease those who like a good mechanic over theme because the good mechanic was there first and it should appease those who like a whole lot of theme but want a good game under there too.

On the other hand, all theme and crappy game play or great game play with no theme, alienate groups of gamers. When a game comes along and beautifully masters the two, it should be recognized not scrutinized.

I give you Lords of Waterdeep, a game with some of the smoothest mechanics I have ever seen and dripping with so much theme you better bring extra napkins.

LoW is a worker placement (you have "agent" pawns you'll be sending out to perform actions for you) resource management (your agents will be collecting or "recruiting" adventurers that you will gather and send out to perform quest) game.

Your role is one of the Lords in the Dungeons and Dragons city of Waterdeep. Your objective is to obtain the most influence (or victory points) after a set number of game rounds. Using your agents to hire fighters, wizards, rouges, and clerics to complete quest for you is one way to earn victory points. Another is to have your agents sent out and pay gold to have buildings built in your factions name. The buildings earn you VPs, as well as provide additional locations for agents to use. If other players agents use a building you control, you also get a benefit. (this benefit varies and can be some gold, extra adventurers, more influence, and more.)

There are always 4 quest that your agents can acquire and you start the game with two. All the quest require a set amount of adventurers to be sent on them and sometimes they also require some gold. Each one (with a few exceptions) grants the Lord who completes it VPs and sometimes other benefits such as gold, more adventurers, and if it's a plot quest, you may receive game long abilities and bonuses.

This is one area where WoTC went above and beyond just "pasting on" the theme. Along with just the requirements and rewards of the quest, the quest cards contain a beautiful illustration that pertains to the quest title as well as a few sentences of text. The requirements and rewards are also not just randomly thrown on but well themed too.

Example: Quest name-Infiltrate Builders Hall. The picture is of a rougue sneaking through an office. The text - "Find out what the Guild of Stonecutters, Masons, Potters, and Tilemakers is up to." The Requirements-Two Fighters, Two Rouges, and 4 Gold. (It fits perfectly) The Reward-(it's a plot quest which offers ongoing benefits) Score 6 Victory Points now and 4 extra whenever you build a building.

Attention to detail like this comes through on every card. You can revel in this theme or simply just ignore it altogether.
One of my favorite aspects of this game I have yet to mention is intrigue cards. You get two to start the game and there are a few places in Waterdeep where you can send your agents to obtain more as well as a few ways to obtain them with new buildings.

There are three types of Intrigue cards. 1. Utility (the majority of the intrigue cards) - when played usually give the player some sort of instant benefit or instant reward and sometime may reward other players 2. Attack - when played usually cause other players to loose adventurers and the current player usually ains something from it.
3. Mandatory Quest - are played on other players forcing them to complete these quest before any others and they are often of little reward.

There is only one place in Waterdeep (Waterdeep Harbor) to send your agent to play an Intrigue card but three different agents can go there each round. What's cool about this place, is that you get to play your card, then at the end of the round, after all the agents have been assigned, the agents in Waterdeep Harbor get to be reassigned in the order they were placed their.

Lastly I should mention that each quest card is of a specific type (6 in all) In setup, each players received his Lord card and these Lords have two specific quest types the prefer. At game end, any quest the player has completed that matches his Lords preferred type gains 4 Victory Points each. Money and unused adventurers also give some game end VP bonuses so the final tally is always unknown when the game ends. (There is also one Lord who prefers give bonuses for owning buildings rather than completing quest)

With out a doubt, this game is my favorite of 2012 and I am very tempted to place it in my top 5 favorite games of all times!

Also, there are over 20 building tiles and only 10 (with a few exceptions) can come out each game which really helps to mix up play from game to game. I know WoTC is planning expansions for this, and I can't wait to see what they're planning.

This has also become one of my go to games for new gamers. It's so deep but yet I have learned to explain the rules in 5 minutes, and everyone seems to catch on very quickly. It may take a game or two to really grasp all the strategy of the game, but it will only take one game to hook you in!


9 out of 10

Lords of Waterdeep

Designed By: Rodney Thompson and Peter Lee

Published - 2012 Wizards of The Coast

# of players: 2-5 ;Mfg suggested Age: 12+ ;Play time: 60 Min

FOR MORE REVIEWS BY JIM AND NJAGP PLEASE CHECK OUT www.NJAGP.com


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Ted Magdzinski
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My copy arrives tomorrow before my game group meets. Super psyched.
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Arthur Rutyna
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darthpilgrim wrote:
LORDS OF WATERDEEP

BY: JIM REED
www.njagp.com

A pasted on theme, I think not.



"It's a Euro with a theme pasted on."

It seems to be one of those defining definitions to the Wizards of The Coast board game Lords of Waterdeep. I've heard it explained this way over and over.

But isn't every Euro a Euro with a theme pasted on. For that matter, isn't every Ameritrash game a game with a theme pasted on?



You are absolutely correct. What should be discussed is theme association. You walk up to a total stranger on the street and mention the phrase "Stone Age", most people will instantly form a mental image of that time period. Now mention the phrase "Lords of Waterdeep". Then if you mention D&D, they'll give you a look like "and how old are you?" Most won't know what the heck your talking about.

The same could be turned around and used against for example a Caylus. But explain that your building a castle for a king using resources of food, wood, stone and gold that come in the shape of colored cubes and people can quickly associate with that idea. On the other hand tell them that your a Lord of Waterdeep acquiring rogues, wizards priests, and warriors that come in the shape of colored cubes to complete quests, and you've kind of lost them.

In my one game we made a "mental effort" to call the colored cubes by their proper names. The cards were cool, and I made an effort to read the flavor text. But unless you are familiar with the D&D universe, the characters don't hold any meaning. Should have used something more popular like LoTR or StarWars or something else that people can associate with easier (I know licensing would have been too much).

I can tell you that most newbies that I try to get into gaming don't care about "fantasy" themes, much less a D&D fantasy theme. It's easier for them to associate with generic themes that have had wide exposure through various media channels
- Stone Age: you learned about in school, many movies.
- Age of Empires III: colonization of the Americas, you learned about in school, many movies.
- Egizia: pyramids in Egypt you learned about in school, many movies.
- Carson City: Americas western frontier and cowboys, you learned about in school, many movies.
- Pillars of the Earth: church building is not a popular subject, but the book by the same title had a ton of sales, and even was even mentioned on the Oprah Winfrey show (hey my wife watches).
- Tribune: Primus Inter Pares: Roman empire, ton of books and movies.
- Leonardo da Vinci: popular inventor, school and movies.
- Ninjato: Everyone wants to be a ninja

So theme is pasted on in most games. You need to be able to sell it. LoW is a good game, maybe even a VERY good game. I'm just not BUYING the theme!

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Kiren Maelwulf
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Really enjoying the game so far, and loving the theme. Completely agree that it is no more pasted on than any other game, but when something is popular, people are going to want to find something to complain about, and mechanically the game is so well done there isn't much else to target.
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Eric Lai
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Good review, agree that the theme isn't pasted on, the sending out of agents to do the dirty work is very in keeping with how the "real" Lords of Waterdeep works, reading out loud the title of the quest cards and calling the cubes by their character class adds to the theme quite a lot. I really don't know why WotC went with cubes, they could have made chits or something more representing instead.

The various functions of the location also makes sense, its not the sort of game where you can pre-plan your strategy, to win you have to leverage & respond to the quests & buildings available in the game as well as your hidden objective.
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Neo_1 wrote:
So theme is pasted on in most games.

In the games you listed, sure. The game mechanics of something like Tribune could be used with an entirely different theme and you wouldn't say, "that doesn't make sense!". Nothing about Tribune says "Rome" except the artwork and the names of things. Change those and it could be about flower-arranging -- that's what people mean by "pasted-on theme".

A strongly thematic game like, say, Space Hulk, could not be made into a game about flower arranging. You could come up with workable alternate themes -- fast zombies instead of aliens or something -- but it's always going to be about a team of soldiers with guns performing missions in the face of a swarm of alien-like enemies.

I know which category I think Waterdeep falls into.
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Mark Mitchell
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srand wrote:
Neo_1 wrote:
So theme is pasted on in most games.

In the games you listed, sure. The game mechanics of something like Tribune could be used with an entirely different theme and you wouldn't say, "that doesn't make sense!". Nothing about Tribune says "Rome" except the artwork and the names of things. Change those and it could be about flower-arranging -- that's what people mean by "pasted-on theme".

A strongly thematic game like, say, Space Hulk, could not be made into a game about flower arranging. You could come up with workable alternate themes -- fast zombies instead of aliens or something -- but it's always going to be about a team of soldiers with guns performing missions in the face of a swarm of alien-like enemies.

I know which category I think Waterdeep falls into.


What utter nonsense. Space Hulk had no less a theme 'pasted on' than LOW. You could change it to jungles in Vietnam, or bunkers in WW2, or a battle on Hoth, or even hired adventurers working for a Lord of Waterdeep. Yes it will always be a miniatures style game as at the heart of the mechanics that's what it is, as much as LOW is a resource/worker placement game. Each is incapable of representing games outside of their mechanic. Your argument hints that actually you find worker placement games to be easier to re-theme. Here I disagree, any game can be re-themed regardless of the 'uniqueness' of its mechanics. 'Unique' mechanics does not necessarily equate to a greater 'un-pastability', it just means that the available variations would be more limited. It certainly does not mean it has more theme as a result.

Your example is also poorly chosen. Space Hulk by its mechanics is a miniatures game so couldnt represent 'flower' arranging as much as LOW cannot simulate combat. They have wildly different mechanics and so the applicable themes to repaste would be different as a result.

'flower arrangement' possibly working with LOW mechanics is maybe where your real objection lies as it insults your machismo.
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gamecat_uk wrote:
Here I disagree, any game can be re-themed regardless of the 'uniqueness' of its mechanics.

I'd like to see you retheme High Frontier.

gamecat_uk wrote:
'flower arrangement' possibly working with LOW mechanics is maybe where your real objection lies as it insults your machismo.

I think your personal attacks need work. I've been dying to get a hold of Prêt-à-Porter, an economic game with a pasted-on theme of running a fashion label. A flower-arranging game would make a nice complement. (Alas, Flowerpower is out of print.)
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gamecat_uk wrote:
as much as LOW cannot simulate combat.


You are a martial artist in ancient Asia. Use your precious time (=agents) to visit gurus (=buildings) to power up your toughness (=black cubes), agility (=white cubes) etc. You may also acquire prestige (=gold) to impress legendary gurus (=buildable buildings) who will then take you as their protige (=bonus for others visiting your buildings). After you are tough enough you can overcome challengers (=quests) and improve yourself as you do (=quest rewards). The goal is to earn enough influence (=influence, oh snap) to be recognized as the top martial artist in all of ancient Asia!
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I've read a number of statements on this thread about theme, which reflect once again how much opinions differ about what is a game with a well integrated one.

First and foremost, I think the OP loses track during the review of his initial point. He gives a definition of "pasted on theme" and starts to demonstrate that LoW doesn't fit the requirements.
In the following words there is only one part of the review in which he clearly states something close to proof of his thesis:
Quote:
This is one area where WoTC went above and beyond just "pasting on" the theme. Along with just the requirements and rewards of the quest, the quest cards contain a beautiful illustration that pertains to the quest title as well as a few sentences of text. The requirements and rewards are also not just randomly thrown on but well themed too.

Followed by an example. Now I can't see any other hints of proof LoW is strong on theme, and this one is rather bland if you ask me. If the quality artwork, flavor text and tackled-on requirements/rewards of quests were enough to state that a game is dripping with theme, then a game like Elders Sign would be too at least this much.


Others have stated that miniatures instead of cubes would have made the theme much stronger. This is also a strange assertion to me, because while the visual impression would be surely different it wouldn't change the game mechanics (or their binding with the theme) one bit: is Puerto Rico more thematic than Caylus because you push barrels instead of cubes?


I believe these kind of discussions spawning every time about a game with/without theme are both a blessing and a curse. I think that theme perception is so much individual that you can only go so far to judge a game theme without falling into personal taste.
Take me: I'm a dry guy apparently, as I can play any game and most of the times I can barely look up above the rules. Only once it happened that I was carried by a game's theme, and by the arguments someone made that was a game with a theme easily convertible in many others (I'm talking Letters from Whitechapel here).


I think that strategic/management games tend to look dryer no matter what because they require you to invest your brain in planning and setting up engines. Even if you incorporate tightly the theme, without investing efforts to make it through the game you will focus on its mechanics instead.
All that can be said objectively about a game IMHO is how its mechanics do make sense with the theme, then you can state how your personal impression of the theme is. I think in this regard LoW fares well, but not so much better than many other strategic game (if you think about it, apart from Knizia's games, the best strategic games around that are considered dry have mechanics that do make sense). What it does better however is in the effort of making the player understand the game does take the theme seriously enough, and here the statement of the OP I quoted before is a sound proof to me.
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srand wrote:
gamecat_uk wrote:
Here I disagree, any game can be re-themed regardless of the 'uniqueness' of its mechanics.

I'd like to see you retheme High Frontier.

gamecat_uk wrote:
'flower arrangement' possibly working with LOW mechanics is maybe where your real objection lies as it insults your machismo.

I think your personal attacks need work. I've been dying to get a hold of Prêt-à-Porter, an economic game with a pasted-on theme of running a fashion label. A flower-arranging game would make a nice complement. (Alas, Flowerpower is out of print.)


Firstly I having a bit of fun regarding machismo. If you took that as a personal attack, then.. well.. your a bit sensitive

Have a read in a bit more detail about what I said.

"'Unique' mechanics does not necessarily equate to a greater 'un-pastability'"

Necessarily... High Frontier like a tiny proportion of other games have extremely specific mechanics that place it almost in a simulation genre. I'm sure it could be re-themed. Easiest would be to make it pure Sci-Fi where your an alien civilisation colonising planets. Yep your never going to get away from the "space" theme as its the mechanic of the game as much as you can't get away from the "combat" theme of Space Hulk as its part of the mechanic.

Pow Mow:

I could replace the figures with anything ww2 soldiers (german soldiers instead of monsters), storm troopers, zombies. The corridors could be replaced with paths through a jungle of caverns underground. Any background story could have a sci-fi/horror thread through it to explain the movement mechanics. Flamethrower could be a spell. And so on...

Your getting components mixed up with theme. It doesn't matter if they are cubes/figures/etc... The argument is that the game mechanics are such that any theme can be pasted on. The relationship between mechanics and components is not what is being discussed here.

My argument is that apart from rare cases virtually all game mechanics can be quite easily re-themed and LOW is no exception to this. LOW mechanics are no more generic than any other worker placement game when it comes to pasting on a theme. What I think people are trying to say is that the game mechanic (worker placement) is liable to much higher variability of theme compare to say a combat game. This is due to the fact that in real life combat is far more homogeneous (always soliders, killing things) conversely resource management thematically could cover pretty much any time/place/process. This however has nothing fundamentally to do with the validity of a theme to a mechanic which is what people seem to be questioning here, albeit in a misconceived way.

To me LOW's mechanics have no greater or lesser "theme" or "theme integration" than any other worker placement game.
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If "paste-on theme" = how a game's theme can be substitute for another setting and you wouldn't find anything wrong with it, then I'm sorry to say that we have different views on the phrase "paste on theme".

IMO the theme of a game is suppose to help you imagine what is going on when you perform a certain action. Be it cosmetic stuff, specialize meeple pawns or wtv, these are the stuff that makes a game feel more theme-y.

For example, in Ninjato (I use ninjato because i own the game and I find it has more theme than LoW), the shurikens pawns gives me more of an impression of a ninja. The same goes for the "valuables" (tokens of resources with pics of artifacts) that i get from the houses. These aren't necessary pieces to make the game work (they could just use normal cubes/meeples if they want), but it is these small things that brings out the theme of the game more.

Of course you can argue that one can also imagine the cubes in LoW to be adventurers of all sorts, but compare this : Cubes and agent meeples in a fantasy theme game, or shurikens and various tokens of artifacts in a ninja theme game, which one is easier to bring out the theme ?

Of course LoW does try to bring out its theme through the quest and intrigue cards, so to say its theme is totally pasted on is also wrong. However for the most part, I'd imagine that when I score for quest, it'll be more of a " trade 5 orange for this amount of points" feel than a "my fighters went in bravely and brought me fame through annihilating the evil thieves gang "


I'm not saying LoW is a bad game, if at all I'm even thinking of picking it up myself! I can imagine myself having loads of fun over the game, maybe even giving it a 10 on 10 for its smooth gameplay, but to say this game has no less of a theme paste-on than space hulk... sorry I just can't agree with that.


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Jim Patching
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I really like Lords of Waterdeep, it's one of the best games I've bought recently, but I'd definitely say the theme is pasted on. Sure, the designers have made an effort to bring the theme out with the quest descriptions and all, but still, you could easily re-theme it literally without changing any of the mechanics.

Regarding whether a theme is pasted on or not - I always look at it as to how easily it is to lose yourself in the theme, to get caught up in it the same way you would if you were reading a good book or watching a good film. Lords of Waterdeep is a really enjoyable game but it in no way makes me feel like I'm acting the part of a mysterious puller of strings hatching plots and manipulating events. I'm just working out the most efficient way of moving my cubes around.

In my opinion a well themed game would be something like War of the Ring - after a game of that I really feel like I've taken part in something epic, something dramatic. Yeah, in reality I've just been rolling dice and moving bits of plastic across a board but because the theme is so well done it's easier to look past that.

Well themed games will have talking points at the end, things you can remember for years. What talking points are you going to have after a game of Lords of Waterdeep? "Yeah, remember that time when you spent 6 orange cubes, 2 black cubes, 10 gold and scored 25 points? Amazing!" Doesn't stop it being a good game, but it's not got what I'd call a strong theme.
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My intention was not to spark up this debate. Again. I was more trying to say that it doesn't matter! This debate could be made over 75% of the games I play.
Not 100% of them. It doesn't matter. I wantd to put the focus back on the game itself in the review and not flood it with all the reasons I love the theme.

You would need to know much about the Forgotten Realms setting to realize some of the subtle theme as it relates to the Lords and the locations themselves. There is also plenty of "Fluff" in the rulebook.

But, it doesn't matter. The first line is ... "I think..." , I'm not telling others what to think, just that no matter which side you want to stand on with this, make sure you're still playing this awesome game!
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panzer-attack wrote:
you could easily re-theme it literally without changing any of the mechanics.

....

"Yeah, remember that time when you spent 6 orange cubes, 2 black cubes, 10 gold and scored 25 points? Amazing!" Doesn't stop it being a good game, but it's not got what I'd call a strong theme.


Thanks Jim. You saved me the time of writing it out myself. Thats Exactly what I was thinking

Definitely mechanics over theme. It doesnt feel like the little cubes are meeting at a tavern before going out and adventuring - but its still a great game.

I just wish the board was nicer. A LOT could have been done with the buildings to fill in the empy spaces and make the city more dynamic. I think a deluxe version would benefit from artwork on the building tiles.

Edit - ok, you guys inspired me to write out my full thoughts on my blog, here: http://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/10131/lords-of-waterdeep-a...

 
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gamecat_uk wrote:
Necessarily... High Frontier like a tiny proportion of other games have extremely specific mechanics that place it almost in a simulation genre. I'm sure it could be re-themed. Easiest would be to make it pure Sci-Fi where your an alien civilisation colonising planets. Yep your never going to get away from the "space" theme as its the mechanic of the game as much as you can't get away from the "combat" theme of Space Hulk as its part of the mechanic.


Exactly. Hight Frontier and Space Hulk have such tight and thematic sets of mechanics that you simply cannot retheme them to be anything else than what they are - a space exploration game and a claustrophobic combat game. They are, in every sense of the word, dripping with theme.

Worker placement is by definition a very abstract mechanic that is prone to pasted on themes and Lords of Waterdeep is no exception - it could be about anything. And that's just why LoW is not dripping with theme. It uses abstract mechanics that kind of feel thematically sound but not really. You never pay the adventurers anything, you collect and keep them around and they never fail to complete a quest. Adventurers are not resources but the game portrays them as nothing more. There are things in this game that make no sense and that's a huge thematic disconnection.

If you want to find well themed (euro) games, look no further than Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords or Space Alert. Every single action in those games, although abstract in nature, is thematically explained and justified in the rule book. I never find myself doubting what I'm doing as it makes perfect sense in the context of the established setting of those games.
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Jim Patching
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darthpilgrim wrote:
My intention was not to spark up this debate. Again.


Oops sorry! From the title of your review and the first couple of paragraphs I thought that's exactly what you were trying to do.
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gamecat_uk wrote:
Your argument hints that actually you find worker placement games to be easier to re-theme. Here I disagree, any game can be re-themed regardless of the 'uniqueness' of its mechanics.

I disagree. Worker placement games are pretty easy to re-theme. In fact, I find the use of the term "worker placement" itself to be quite an exaggeration of how much theme there is to the mechanics. When playing these games, I never feel like I'm assigning workers to tasks. I'm simply placing a token on the board to indicate the action that I'm taking this turn. It's functionally identical to, say, selecting a role card in San Juan. But no one would call San Juan a "worker placement" game.
 
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The theme in LoW work's with the game mechanics. Much of the game can be explained through the theme, the idea of your identity being secret, the idea of sending you agents out to accomplish tasks, etc. Could it be re-themed? Probably. Whould I or my group enjoy playing a farmer or a caveman over playing a lord of a fantasy city? Probably not. And ultimately that is why the theme works well, it makes sense and it is fun to get into. Of course you could re-theme any game out there. Space Hulk could take place in a giant green house with teams of gardners trying to water living plants, it would be stupid but you could do it.
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darthpilgrim wrote:

You would need to know much about the Forgotten Realms setting to realize some of the subtle theme as it relates to the Lords and the locations themselves. There is also plenty of "Fluff" in the rulebook.


But there's a difference between enjoying the theme that has been pasted on, and thinking that theme is intrinsically integrated with the mechanics.

So I fully concede that they did a great job of taking a theme and putting that theme onto the components. Yes, the card art is great. The flavor text is great. They've taken all of that stuff and put it in there.

And then, they also made a game. That game doesn't exist solely because it was created in the world of Waterdeep. They didn't take a unique feature of the theme and build a mechanic around it. There's nothing about how this game plays that is the way it is because it's set in the world of Waterdeep. Instead, it's a solid resource-collection game that they've prettied up. But you could just as easily make it about soup and you wouldn't have to change any of the mechanics.

On the other hand, take a game like The Manhattan Project. While I'm sure you could retheme it, it wouldn't be easy (at least, not as easy as saying the game's about soup and orange cubes are now carrots). You'd have to find a world that involves something parallel to the espionage track, the bombing track, converting the uranium/plutonium, etc... That's a well-integrated theme because the theme dictated what some of the mechanics would be (this is my definition of a well-integrated theme; if you disagree with the definition, we're not going to agree on anything that comes from it). I really can't think of an example of a similar mechanic in LoW.
 
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DeePee wrote:
gamecat_uk wrote:
Necessarily... High Frontier like a tiny proportion of other games have extremely specific mechanics that place it almost in a simulation genre. I'm sure it could be re-themed. Easiest would be to make it pure Sci-Fi where your an alien civilisation colonising planets. Yep your never going to get away from the "space" theme as its the mechanic of the game as much as you can't get away from the "combat" theme of Space Hulk as its part of the mechanic.


Exactly. Hight Frontier and Space Hulk have such tight and thematic sets of mechanics that you simply cannot retheme them to be anything else than what they are - a space exploration game and a claustrophobic combat game. They are, in every sense of the word, dripping with theme.

Worker placement is by definition a very abstract mechanic that is prone to pasted on themes and Lords of Waterdeep is no exception - it could be about anything. And that's just why LoW is not dripping with theme. It uses abstract mechanics that kind of feel thematically sound but not really. You never pay the adventurers anything, you collect and keep them around and they never fail to complete a quest. Adventurers are not resources but the game portrays them as nothing more. There are things in this game that make no sense and that's a huge thematic disconnection.

If you want to find well themed (euro) games, look no further than Galaxy Trucker, Dungeon Lords or Space Alert. Every single action in those games, although abstract in nature, is thematically explained and justified in the rule book. I never find myself doubting what I'm doing as it makes perfect sense in the context of the established setting of those games.


Firstly Space Hulk is a piece of cake to retheme. High Frontier isn't. But it wouldn't be impossible. It seems you feel that game mechanic uniqueness creates more synergy with a theme. Either way I think people are misunderstanding my point. Every action in LOW can be explained as much as in Dungeon Lords. There are some pretty weird processes in Dungeon Lords that I could critique thematically but I won't. I just think that its no more theme pasted than most other games. True theme for me comes from strong narrative not game mechanics. Battle Star Galactica achieves its thematic goals well. It could be rethemed if you wanted to but it reflects the narrative in the game experience. That for me is a good example of theme. I think this 'pasted' on concept is flawed and the reality of theme quality is far more complex and quite individual.
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karlvonl wrote:
gamecat_uk wrote:
Your argument hints that actually you find worker placement games to be easier to re-theme. Here I disagree, any game can be re-themed regardless of the 'uniqueness' of its mechanics.

I disagree. Worker placement games are pretty easy to re-theme. In fact, I find the use of the term "worker placement" itself to be quite an exaggeration of how much theme there is to the mechanics. When playing these games, I never feel like I'm assigning workers to tasks. I'm simply placing a token on the board to indicate the action that I'm taking this turn. It's functionally identical to, say, selecting a role card in San Juan. But no one would call San Juan a "worker placement" game.


If worker placement, role selection ....etc mechanic is fundementally lacking theme in your opinion then you would naturally consider them easier to retheme. I can't really think of any game mechanic that conjures up the levels of theme that apparently worker placement falls well below. Maybe dice rolling combat appeals to you more than drier euros, like I say its preference not actually related to rethemeability.
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My two cents:

While some people are getting entangled into the discussion on whether or not LoW has pasted on theme or that all games have it or not, to me the important fact is that LoW is by design a cross-over game, meant to appeal to both D&D fans and Eurogamers. Its simple but elegant mechanics makes it also an excellent gateway game with some meat in it.

WotC took a high risk/high reward gamble here, and they succeded at it. Trying to appeal to D&D fantasy players and introducing them to a game with no dice, while making an Euro with not necessarily novel but solid mechanics that could satisfy Eurogamers was a very delicate balance to achieve. I think the clever incorporation of Intrigue cards is key to LoW's success. A poorly designed game could have easily sucked for both factions...

Reading a lot of threads about the topic, it seems that at least some of the complaints about pasted-on theme or lack of depth in LoW are coming from both AT AND Euro hard-core gamers from both sides of the fence. Why? Perhaps some Euro-gamers are so used to farmers or markets and cubes that perceive the D&D theme as something alien, therefore "pasted on" their familiar mechanics. On the other hand, we have hard-core Ameritrashers that don't question stats, hit points, and dice rolls for killing stuff but feel that their familiar fantasy theme was "pasted on" the worker placement mechanism that they usually avoid. Some complain about pushing cubes, but isn't the D6 the most prevalent cube of them all? How come rolling a cube to kill something is thematically better than representing adventurers using one? To me they are both abstract ways to represent something. Our pre-conceptions strongly influence on what we perceive as theme in a game.

There's no way that WotC could have appealed to both extremes at the same time, no matter what they did with LoW. The fact that most people have fun with it, regardless their gaming preferences, is testament that the game is clearly well made and excels in what it is designed to acomplish.

Edit: several typos
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Summed it up perfectly. Cheers for that. I'm replying from my phone so couldn't articulate very well.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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darthpilgrim wrote:
My intention was not to spark up this debate.

Really? I think it's not surprising people thought differently given what you chose for the opening line of your review:

darthpilgrim wrote:
A pasted on theme, I think not.
 
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